The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 5 – The Iron Islands

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Home of the maritime raiding Ironborn, the Iron Islands is among the smallest and least populous region of Westeros. Located off the continent’s west coast, these small, rocky, windswept islands don’t support a lot of resources. This explains why the Ironborn have resorted to raiding and pillaging as a way of life for much of their history until Aegon the Conqueror put a stop to it. Well, at least within Westeros. Nonetheless, they are exceptional sailors and would be a military force to be reckoned with if they had the numbers and discipline. But before the Targaryen Conquest, they once controlled the Riverlands under House Hoare for 3 generations, which they conquered from the Stormlands. And unlike most of Westeros, they worship the Drowned God.

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Location: A small collective of islands west of the Neck and northwest of the Riverlands.

Size: It’s the smallest of the 7 Kingdoms.

Capital: Castle Pyke on the island of Pyke.

Climate: Rain-lashed and cold with frequent storms.

Environment: The islands are small and rocky with poor soil and hardly any naturally resources.

Resources: Other than iron mines, there’s not much else. Hell, if there were a lot of natural resources, they wouldn’t be raiding.

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Population: Call themselves Ironborn. Despite their Golden Age being over, they still yearn for their pillaging ways. Have a reputation for being the most rebellious and troublesome people of Westeros. Still, it’s among the least populous regions of Westeros so there aren’t many of them.

Key Cities: Islands include Pyke, Great Wyk, Harlaw, Blacktyde, Orkmont, Old Wyk, Lonely Light, and Saltcliffe. Red Harbor is the region’s main port.

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Culture: Noble bastards take the surname Pyke. Take pride in the “iron price” as an echo for their pillaging ways the Targaryens forced them to give up. Or at least give up raiding around Westeros. Were also known to take captive slaves to work in their few agricultural fields since the Ironborn can’t afford draft animals. A youth isn’t considered a man until he kills his first enemy. Have open attitudes toward sexuality since they’re a maritime culture (though it might be more along the lines of “love the one you’re with.”) Also a very male-dominated society (though they may take exception to Yara).

Religion: Worship the Drowned God, which is in an eternal struggle with the Storm God and focuses on resurrection. Have a kind of baptism ceremony of initiation for infants and a similar ceremony to anoint kings. Priests are known as Drowned Men.

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Great House: House Greyjoy, who were appointed as rulers by the Ironborn under Aegon the Conqueror’s direction. As of Season 7, currently subject to a dynastic dispute between King Euron and Princess Yara.

Vassal Houses: House Botley, House Harlaw, and House Goodbrother.

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History: The Ironborn were once fierce pirates and plunderers who raided the mainland for gold, glory, and prisoners to work their fields and tend their docks. At one point, they were the most feared people of Westeros. Legend states that one of their ancient kings slew a sea dragon. Before the Targaryen Conquest, it was once known as the Kingdom of the Iron Isles, They once ruled the Riverlands, which entailed beating the shit out of the stormlords. They then successfully defeated and drove back the Andals, subsuming them into their society and not the other way around as in the rest of Westeros. Harren the Black once had his massive Harrenhal castle built as a monument to his subjugation of them. But Aegon the Conqueror landed and reduced the castle to smoking ruins thanks to dragons. He then pushed the Ironborn back to their islands and allowed them to appoint House Greyjoy as their new rulers. Though Balon Greyjoy tried to reverse this by rebellion but the Baratheons beat them into submission. While Ned Stark took in his son Theon as his ward and hostage. Balon also exiled his younger brother Euron who became the most feared pirate in Westeros, terrorizing the seas from Oldtown to Essos.

Current Status: As of Season 7, it’s in the middle of a dynastic dispute between King Euron and Princess Yara.

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Best Known for: The Ironborn are known to be fearsome warriors and are unparalleled in the seafaring arts. Individually, they can be the strongest warriors in Westeros. But they’re too individualistic to fight cohesively as a group. Also, cannot bear to admit defeat and insist on paying everything with the “iron price,” taking it by force or negotiating for what they need.

Home of: Theon Greyjoy, Yara Greyjoy, Euron Greyjoy, and Balon Greyjoy.

Landmarks: Not that I can name.

What to Avoid: Note there are frequent storms here and that the Ironborn are a hostile lot.

For Those Who Want to Visit: You might want to stay away from this place entirely.

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